So insubstantial that it practically evaporates on screen, “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” likely will play best with toddlers and pre-schoolers easily amused by bright colors, merry songs and lovable, huggable toon animals. One of the lesser entries in Disney’s ongoing “Winnie the Pooh” franchise, modest and muted pic won’t be around long in theatrical run, but should prove quite popular down the line as the homevid equivalent of a pacifier.
While Christopher Robin makes only a token appearance during closing credits, most other popular A.A. Milne characters are on hand to go through familiar paces in Hundred Acre Wood. Wispy scenario calls for Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), Tigger (also Cummings), Piglet (John Fiedler), Rabbit (Ken Sansom) and Eeyore (Peter Cullen) to be greatly distressed by evidence that a dreaded “Heffalump” (i.e., elephant) has been roaming in their general vicinity.
While Team Pooh attempts to capture the dangerous creature in a far-flung corner of the wood, spunky little Roo (Nikita Hopkins) befriends a not-so-dangerous young Heffalump named Lumpy (Kyle Stanger). As the new buddies gambol and frolic to the strains of Carly Simon’s pleasantly innocuous original tunes, they find they’re not so different after all. Better still, their peaceful coexistence inspires greater trust between their initially mistrustful elders.
Even though it clocks in at 67 minutes, including credits, “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” feels unduly padded. Indeed, it’s hard to shake the impression the project was intended as a direct-to-video release, and somehow got misrouted on its way to retail outlets. Overall, animation is unremarkably bland, with backgrounds and landscapes conspicuously lacking detail. Vocal talents — including Brenda Blethyn as Mama Heffalump and Kath Soucie as Kanga, Roo’s mommy — aren’t unduly taxed.
Of course, in this age of the Professionally Outraged, it’s altogether possible that some pressure group will huff and puff about “Heffalump.” After all, pic preaches a message of tolerance and mutual acceptance while dealing with a lavender elephant — no, I’m not making this up — who’s ultimately embraced by “normal” animals of more traditional hues. Wait until the folks who were upset by Teletubbies and Buster Rabbit get a load of this.